First of all, welcome to everyone here this evening. The Rugby Club constitution states that we need 20 voting members to turn out in order that the meeting can take place and this can be a challenge. Those of you who attended the last AGM will understand when I say that I am glad we are not having to do it via zoom again! I would encourage members to attend the AGM and the Financial AGM if they can. We are ‘One Club’ and the Club is managed through the Executive Team on behalf of the membership so your engagement and involvement are crucial.
The last AGM was held in October last year so this report will cover the fortunes and activities of the Club since then. In my last Chairman’s report, I commented on how magnificent the response of the membership, sponsors, supporters and other stakeholders of the Rugby Club had been to the serious challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. I can tell you now that I could not be prouder to be Chairman of this great Club. The response since October last year, which has included a further lockdown between Boxing day and 29th March and to the 12th April for hospitality, has been at least as impressive and has demonstrated the extent to which many individuals and families care about our Club and its importance within the community. It is this support that has ensured that Macclesfield Rugby Club has not just survived but has thrived through adversity and is well placed to resume activities on and off the pitch as the guidelines loosen.
We aim to be a happy, successful and sustainable Rugby Club at the heart of the community and to play at the highest level we can achieve across all age grades, types and genders of the game within our means. We are ‘One Club’.
On the pitch despite the whole of the 2020/21 season having been cancelled the Club has been incredibly active on the field of play. Tom and Phil will deliver their reports but I just want to highlight a few things:
· The Mini/Junior section of the Club has delivered activity throughout the pandemic, as the guidelines have allowed and a huge thanks must go to Phil Mason as Chairman of the section and to all the amazing work done by coaches and other volunteers, who have engaged with the young players and their parents and supporters to keep them involved. The numbers participating in rugby across the age grades in recent weeks are testament to the energy, enthusiasm and professionalism of the coaching and support teams and, of course to the players and their supporters in turn. We are proposing to change the organisational structure across the Junior Club for next season and I will summarize the changes and the reasons why later in the meeting.
· It was fantastic that our Club was able to introduce no less than 5 colts to the senior squad that took on Sheffield Tigers recently. This demonstrates again the great talent coming through the age grades and it is also a huge credit to the quality of the coaching team throughout the Club. Congratulations to Harry Oliver for being selected to receive a sporting civic award by the Lord Mayor of Macclesfield for his achievement in gaining his England U18 cap. The 1st XV is excited about the challenge for promotion back to National 2 next season. The amalgamation of the 1st/2nd team squads will undoubtedly strengthen both teams on the pitch next season and this, one hopes will help the numbers in the 3rd XV under Simon Grant’s leadership. The 4th XV continues to master the art of social rugby with a competitive edge that almost put them in danger of promotion last season. The squad works hard and plays hard as was demonstrated by the recent virtual rugby tour held in the Sin Bin at which over 70 people from across the Club attended.
· The women’s squad continues to build and is up to about 25 now with Kirsty Wallis at the helm and the ‘Inner Warrior’ sessions have been well received. It is brilliant to see the number of girl’s participating on the increase and a big thank you to Pip Gregory, Liz Jarratt, coaches and supporters for their success in getting the girls rugby off the ground during the pandemic. Fantastic. It is also great to see so many women now participating in the touch rugby on Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings (occasionally)
· The touch rugby and walking rugby groups continue to grow with both regularly having between 20 and 30 players turn out in all weathers on a Thursday evening and on an ad hoc basis on Saturday mornings. These groups include a good number of players who have never played the 15-a-side game and are playing these formats for pleasure. The plan is to formally adopt the O2 Touch format and compete in tournaments around the country. We just need a volunteer to take a lead on this. Club night on a Thursday is a great evening either to play, to train or just to meet friends for beer, pie and banter.
· I am delighted to announce that the Club is investing in an upgrade and improvement to the lighting on the artificial pitch. Bill Spray and his business ‘Energicity’ will replace the suite of lights we currently have with LED lamps that will give us better light over a much longer period and at a significantly reduced running cost. They will also add a bank of six new lights that will face out to the top pitch and light out to the 22m line. This, along with the 4 portable floodlights that James Ashbrook has very kindly lent the Club, will enable more people to train under floodlights in the evenings and take pressure off the main pitch. We also hope to free some artificial pitch time up for hire although the Club’s need will take priority. The total cost will be £15,000 and I would like to thank the walking rugby group for their contribution of £1,000 so far. They make a voluntary collection every Thursday evening to support the cost of the lighting out to the top pitch which is about £3,000.
· The Club is hosting a 7-a-side tournament over the 9th/10th July which will include walking rugby, touch rugby, women’s rugby, men’s rugby and possibly netball. The information is on the website. It is an exciting prospect with food, drink and entertainment included so, if you are staycationing, put it in your diary.
Off the pitch we continue to follow the guidelines and keep the social side of The Club going as best we can.
Massive thanks again to Phil Mason, M&J Chairman, for ensuring that this Club has a very professional risk assessment. Phil continues to guide us through the quagmire of detail required to ensure we are compliant. Massive thanks also to Andy Appleyard (Apps) who, as General Manager and Lead Coach, has been unstinting in his commitment to delivering activities on and off the pitch and on social media. Andy’s leadership and management of the business of the Club has been instrumental in its success through the pandemic. And I must offer thanks, on behalf of all those of us who have enjoyed numerous afternoons and evenings in the Sin Bin, to Kirsty Wallis. Kirsty has managed the Sin Bin, at times under a great deal of pressure, magnificently since it opened. Her professionalism is first class but her enthusiasm and energy are amazing and even when under intense pressure she always has a smile on her face and time for a quick word. She and her team deserve huge credit for the manner in which they have served us all.
The Sin Bin opened in October and has been improving ever since. The addition of the 40ft container and the ‘Sampson flaps’ have delivered more space on the car park side and the decking to the main pitch has added a great viewing position for matches. The lighting, heating and TV screens all make for a fantastic atmosphere and the Sin Bin will, I have no doubt be a massive asset for the Club in the future. As a direct result of the opening of the Sin Bin the Club has been able to take full advantage of outdoor hospitality as and when the rules have allowed. The income generated has been absolutely critical to the financial wellbeing of the Club. The Sin Bin was designed, built and paid for by members of the Club for members of the Club and has been a wonderful achievement.
The house and grounds of the Club have been maintained and improved thanks to John Webster and the grounds team alongside the ‘Roustabout’ group. The Roustabouts was the brainchild of our President Pete Harper and now boasts over 20 volunteers who have met regularly every Tuesday morning from 10am to support the grounds team and Andy in maintaining and improving our Club. Their involvement has supported the completion of the changing rooms refurbishment which has also delivered separate changing facilities for Women. Their work has included painting the corridor with the wonderful heritage of the Club displayed along it. They have laid flagstones, replaced and cleaned seats in the stand, built decking, stained picnic benches and many other tasks. They have saved the Rugby Club a lot of money and kept the site presentable and fit for purpose. A special thanks must go to Stephen Sampson and Tristan Wood, both roustabouts and also parent/ coaches in the mini/junior section of the Club. Tristan is also the Club safeguarding Officer. These two have between them made a huge impression on the Club. They have turned out to repair the fencing and other damage to the artificial pitch area at their own cost. They have repaired and maintained machinery in support of the grounds team. They have often used their own materials and equipment to help the Club out. Their participation on and off the pitch has been very welcome and much appreciated. A big thank you to Stephen, Tristan, to Pete and the Roustabouts and to John Webster and the grounds team.
I am delighted to announce that Pete Sampson and his business ‘Scissorwood’ are in the process of completely redesigning and building a new bar to replace that in the Priory Suite ready for the opening up of indoor hospitality. Pete designed and built the Sin Bin and also built the new benches for the dug outs to the main pitch. The new bar will look terrific and will enable us to be much more efficient in serving customers. Pete has subsidised the cost of the build and has also sponsored the Sin Bin. The cost to the Club will be in the region of £16,000 and will be money well spent. All three bars, The Priory Suite, Spiral Lounge and Sin Bin will be fantastic assets for the Club and will also help us to build Priory Park Venue as a destination for third party hires for events, functions and business use 12 months of the year. For example, the calendar this summer is busier than ever:
· We have the 7-a-side weekend over the 9th/10th July
· We have the Macclesfield Family music festival on the 17th July
· We have the Comedy festival for families and adults only on the 7th August
In addition, the Club has secured bookings for weddings and other functions and events through until the new season starts in September. And don’t forget the annual fundraising golf day on the 23rd October this year back at the Tytherington Club. The revenue generated from these will be reinvested in our Rugby.
At the last AGM I said that we were actively pursuing a plan to bring the back field back in to use. The player benefits are huge and the commercial opportunities significant and we continue to investigate the possibilities. Needless to say, the project is quite complex and will take time and money but we will get there. I also floated the idea of an extension to the Clubhouse at some point, not for the sake of it but because there is a genuine need for more space both downstairs in the player areas and upstairs in the hospitality areas. We are not actively pursuing this project at this time and will wait to see how things settle down when the Club is running on a ‘business as usual’ footing.
Financially Pete White will deliver his final report save to say that as a result of the solid financial management of the Club’s finances by Pete and the early support from the membership, we have the financial headroom to invest in the floodlighting and new bar. We have also applied to the RFU for a loan, on very favourable terms, that would enable us to replace the surface of the artificial pitch at last. This is something of a legacy issue that the Club must address with some urgency. The surface is now 3 years overdue for resurfacing and the degradation will soon affect our ability to use and hire the facility and generate revenue. That is a situation we should avoid. With or without the loan this project may require internal fundraising to protect the asset. The membership has been generous in its financial support for the Club and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved in organising fundraising events through the pandemic including the race nights and the silent auction and all those who supported the events.
If anyone is interested in supporting the Rugby Club financially there are a number of ways available. Please contact Andy Appleyard or any member of the executive team at any time and we would be happy to discuss them.
With regard to membership, we will communicate the arrangements for next season 2021/22 once we have the confirmed fixture lists for the leagues which should be out, hopefully later this month. More than ever, as we continue to rebuild and look forward to the future, we need the membership to pay their subscriptions when due and to those few who feel they should receive the benefits of membership without paying subs or match fees I would ask them to search their consciences and contribute along with the vast majority of members.
At the same time, we will be communicating with our existing sponsors and with potential new sponsors and asking for their much-needed support for next season. I am delighted to announce that Mike Ransom, Money Guru has extended their association with the Club as our main sponsor and a big welcome to Jonathan Cooper and his business TheDirectorsChoice.com as a key partner. Also, I can announce that our association with O’Neills as the Club main kit sponsor will continue and that we are in the process of negotiating the brewery contract. We never take sponsorship for granted and welcome it in different ways from direct financial support to help with skills, services, materials and equipment. We invite all our sponsors to be actively engaged and involved in the Club as part of the rugby family. The Club website is in the process of being reviewed and a high-profile business directory will be available for sponsors to promote themselves and any benefits for members. Members will be encouraged to use the directory as their first destination when looking for products and services. If you know of any individuals or businesses that might be interested to support the Rugby Club and the community it represents, please put them in touch with Andy or any of the Executive team who will be happy to meet them to discuss opportunities.
It would take a very long time to thank everyone who has been involved in supporting The Club but please, whoever you are and wherever you are know that your contributions individually and collectively are much appreciated. Whether you have given of your money, time, skills, materials, made the effort to support functions and events and of course in supporting the players on a Saturday’s and Sunday’s. All of this makes us The Club we are and every contribution, in whatever form, is very welcome.
I do have a few notable thankyous though:
To Andy Appleyard, Kirsty and the hospitality Team supported by Jim Curtis and Louis Smith and including Maggie and Barry, The Barbecue, for their enduring energy and enthusiasm throughout the year both on and off the pitch and particularly through the lockdown. Without your initiative, creativity and commitment we would not have been able to make the most of a challenging situation.
To the grounds team who, throughout have ensured the playing surfaces are fit for purpose. Also, to the ‘Roustabout’ team who have taken it upon themselves to carry out general duties around the club.
To all the coaches, team managers, captains, players and support teams. The Club is about the Rugby and it is a huge credit to you Ladies and Gentlemen that we continue to sustain and grow our membership across The Club and that we build our reputation in the community based on our core values.
Special mention to Liz Jarratt for all her work in support of mental health. We now have a team of around 10 mental health first aiders and have associations with Looseheadz and GiveARuck and have even been mentioned in dispatches by the RFU.
To Pip Gregory and the team who have established the Girls rugby squad at the Club. This is fantastic and means that after U11 girls can continue to play rugby here at Macclesfield.
To Jason walker and his team at Search & More for working with us to deliver an up to date and quality web platform which is currently being reviewed and upgraded.
Finally, to my colleagues on the Exec team for their active participation and support as we continue to develop the Club on behalf of the membership. Pete White did not stand for re-election as Finance Director last year but has gallantly continued in the role for much of this year. At last, we can let him retire from the role to enjoy the beer and banter associated with the Alickadoos after 8 years in the role. I am delighted to announce that Phil Ainsworth has been proposed and seconded as the Club’s Finance Director. Phil’s profile has been published on the website but in summary, he is an active member of the walking rugby group. He is a Director in the family jewellery business in Blackburn but lives in Macclesfield and he has been actively involved in community enterprises for a number of years. He will, I am sure, be a safe pair of hands in which to place the Clubs finances. Pete White has been an outstanding finance director and has guided the Club through one of the most challenging financial periods in its history. His contribution to the Club in general and to Me and the executive team in particular has been outstanding. His wider contribution to the wellbeing of The Club has been largely understated but significant none the less and we wish him well as an Alickadoo. (PRESENT GIFT)
· Your Rugby Club has thrived in adversity
· The membership has been active and supportive through volunteering, money, time, skills and materials and engagement
· The Players, Coaches, Captains, Managers and support teams across the club, have been a credit to the club and the sport
· The management team have ensured we remain compliant with the changing landscape of Covid-19 and have been creative and demonstrated a ‘can do’ attitude in keeping the club ’open for business’ on and off the pitch
· Our business model is simple and effective
· The infrastructure we are building is robust
· Our Sponsors remain engaged and supportive of the Club
· We continue to develop and improve our club on and off the field
· We have realistic and exciting plans for the future
I began this report by stating that our aim was to be a Happy, Successful and Sustainable Rugby Club at the heart of the community and I hope and believe that the contents of this report demonstrate all three. We have a busy summer of fun to look forward to and we can look forward in eager anticipation to the start of a full season of league and social rugby in September.
Thank you, the membership, for making this Club what it is.